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Monday, August 15, 2011

Trinkets or Tradition?

Rock Springs Park Carousel

Ever wonder why carousels in the United States turn counterclockwise. I didn’t either, until I read that European carousels spin the other direction. I knew about the opposite toilet swirl in Australia and driving on the left side of the road in England, but opposing carousel twirls was something new to me. What’s up with that?

Carousel on London's South Bank during a summer festival.

On one of those “ask questions” sites someone speculated that a counterclockwise rotation reduces dizziness, but that is not the case. It seems that European merry-go-round horses face left to allow a rider to approach the horse or chicken or dragon directly from the loading platform and mount by lifting one's right leg over the animal's back. The horse's left side is called its "near" side, which is the side on which European riders traditionally mount. American carousels turn counterclockwise for a much less sophisticated reason. It is simply so that the rider on the outer ring can use his right hand to catch a brass ring. In other words, for them it's tradition and for us it's for trinkets.

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